In the crazy world of game development, making a full-length game is only part of the picture. Without a publisher’s support to distribute and promote a title, it can be nearly impossible for an independent studio to gather the resources and know-how to take their game to market. This was the pickle that Atomic Games found themselves in last year, when Konami pulled their support for Six Days in Fallujah amidst crys from those who felt the subject matter and treatment were disrespectful to those who served in the military, both past and present.
With so much time and technology invested in the title already, what was a studio like Atomic to do? Why, strip the game down for parts and build a new title in a different direction, of course. At PAX East, the Gamer Limit crew got their hands on the recently announced Breach, and found both the game tech and business strategy to be intriguing.
With the popularity of Bad Company 2 around these parts, we were more or less contractually obligated to take a look when we saw this class-based multi-player shooter on the show floor. Breach is a downloadable multi-player only title which will be released on XBLA. Breach takes much of the core engine from Six Days, and focuses it on environmental destruction and team play, rather than the single-player narrative documentary style that was planned for its progenitor.
Breach carries on the successful tradition of other downloadable titles like Battlefield 1943, while taking advantage of the popular XP based unlock systems from larger shooters such as Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company 2. The game features 5 playable classes, 4 of which are available at the onset, and one which must be unlocked over time.
We could go on about how Breach is like other games that have come before it, but that’s neither interesting nor relevant. A better use of everybody’s time is to focus on what makes this re-tooled title different from previous offerings in the same vein.
What makes Breach interesting is the way in which destructible environments are implemented and how this impacts the cover mechanics at play. The game in its current state is very unforgiving to those who employ a strict run and gun style. It doesn’t take many shots to kill a player, which necessitates a strategic use of cover to stay alive and reach advantageous positions.
However, the game doesn’t allow you to relax in the safety of cover forever; the destructible environment tech sees to that. If you know exactly where your opponent is, you can shoot directly through wood and hit them. Sandbags will be eroded by fire over time. Even concrete entrenchment will yield to explosives and other fire. This forces player to think quickly on their feet and keep track of enemy positions in order to successfully move from cover point to cover point. It’s easy to see how this could affect both Team Deathmatch and more objective based modes in interesting ways.
The tech for destroying the environment had an impressive level of precision. Individual bricks can be shot out of a wall, creating many opportunities, such as sniping from inside, or stealthily tossing an explosive device from outside to take out people holed up within. Additionally, the cover system will adapt dynamically to changes in the environment; if a large hole is blown in a wall, the player can then use the sides of that hole to lean out and fire back.
The game is in a rough state of polish; clipping issues were rampant and it could be running much tighter. However, with no solid release date set (early summer) there’s plenty of time for Atomic to get this one all gussied up for launch. No price point was set at the time either, so we can only assume that it will run in the same range as other premium XBLA titles ($10-$20) when it comes out.
I was impressed by the business strategy at play here in the wake of Six Days being dropped; reduce the scale of the game, utilize the strengths of the existing tech, and launch on a platform that doesn’t require massive publisher support. I think they’ll see a reasonable recouping of their investment by going this route. We’ll be keeping an eye on Breach as it moves closer to release, and in the meantime, I can’t help but admire Atomic’s ability to turn lemons into lemonade.